Fresh is the ubiquitous vegetarian chain in Toronto. It is on par with McDonald's for popularity, number of vegans and vegetarians who actually dine there and food quality.
That's not a compliment.
There are now 4 Fresh locations in Toronto but this one and the one on Spadina are likely the busiest due to the proximity to U of T and the downtown lunch crowd. Try not to go during peak hours around lunch or dinner unless you want to wait.
The food is very low quality. They serve store bought faux meats instead of making their own. Same goes for the cupcakes and other desserts. They're made by Sweets from the Earth and generally aren't very fresh like the name of the place would have you believe.
All the food is non-organic. I suggest you avoid the bowls at the very least. They don't seem to have any theme or inspiration to them and taste more like a bunch of random ingredients and a sauce placed on either rice or soba noodles. Has anyone who manages this place ever tasted them? It's not cohesive. I've eaten similar bowls at veggie restaurants from Portland to Tokyo and can honestly say Fresh's are some of the worst. (Aux Vivres in Montreal makes one of the best Buddha Bowls ever, if you happen to be there.)
Dieting young women and people who've been working out at the JCC across the street come here to eat. You're crammed in like sardines if you get stuck along the banquet wall. These people must feel good about the food at Fresh because it's probably the only vegan or vegetarian thing they'll eat all week. I think when you go completely vegan, you're taste buds grow and develop. You don't just settle for a pile of diced produce on plain brown rice with flavourless sauce and weird things like tomatoes in it.
The place is always packed. Service is generally okay but there's high staff turnover due to the volume they deal with. In the kitchen things are thrown together assembly line style and it's clear in the food. They're constantly looking to hire line cooks on craigslist because it's probably gruelling and underpaid back there too.
If you're a vegan or a true vegetarian, avoid at all costs. For tastier bowls in Toronto and much less fuss, go to an Urban Herbivore location, get the grain bowl with the lemon tahini or carrot sesame dressing.
Other things you should know about Fresh:
- the owner wears a fur trimmed Canada Goose jacket made from the corpses of coyotes and ducks and geese
- worst vegan pancakes in the city. Sadly very few options for vegan pancakes in Toronto, so recommending you go to Starving Artist for vegan waffles instead.
- very overpriced sweet potato fries
- the faux meats are bottom of the barrel and GMO soy Yves brand products. They taste terrible too.
Cons: bad, assembly line, bland food, overpriced, overhyped, long wait for a table